• Just imagine all the love

    by Erika Fiske

    MONTEREY— Dorra is no beauty. And like so many who don’t have the looks or brains or charisma society worships, her life hasn’t been easy. But the love she has for her dog makes up for all that.

    As I sit near some plantings by the parking lot at Window on the Bay, with my back to the cold wind, I talk with this 49-year-old homeless woman. She smiles easily, although her teeth don’t look quite right. She wears a thick winter coat and a knit hat, and says it stops the wind.

    Her little dog, Willey, is sitting on the sunny side of my legs, leaning against me and absorbing the warm rays. Her coat is thin and funny looking. She’s an 8-year-old mix of poodle, terrier and chihuahua, black in color with white and gray hairs sticking straight up off her head and down from her chin, giving her the look of someone who needs a shave. I have to laugh.

    Dorra is eating breakfast, provided to the homeless each Sunday here on the beach, along with some words from the Bible. Earlier, a group of homeless and volunteers were standing in a circle near the giant eucalyptus trees, and Brother Brian Bajari asked everyone to share what they were thankful for, or what they would like to see happen in the world.

    Words seem to carry more meaning when spoken in such a beautiful place, with nature all around–especially in the midst of people whose lives have been so hard. Brian asked everyone to listen to God through the sound of the wind and the waves.

    We listened.

    Now, as Dorra finishes her food, Willey stands at her feet, looking up in anticipation. The homeless woman leans over and gently picks up her dog and hugs her. “I love you so much,” she says, burying her face in Willey’s coat. “You’re my best friend, my best friend in the whole world.”

    Watching Dorra with her dog, I realize she’s not exaggerating. She truly loves the animal. “She’s kinda kept me going,” she says. “If I didn’t have her, I’d be so lost. She sleeps with me every night and loves me no matter what.”

     

    Dorra and Willey have been together through hard times for eight years now. Dorra’s life has never been easy. She dropped out of school at the age of 16, while living in the San Fernando Valley. “I wasn’t very popular in school,” she explains. “So I became a loner.”

    At 18 she found herself pregnant. By the time her child was 10, she took her to be raised by her father on the East Coast, so she could have a better life. Over the years she had a second child who now resides in Hanford, CA, and talks to Dorra regularly by phone.

    The last job Dorra had was making sandwiches at Subway in 2008. “I haven’t had much luck holding jobs,” she explains. Before becoming homeless about 1 1/2 years ago, she lived in a trailer in Arizona with no water or electricity. Then she met 47-year-old Brian and decided to make a journey with him–to find a better life for herself.

    Brian has been homeless about five years. Their plan was to move to Eugene, Oregon. “We wanted to see if we could find a place to live and do something together,” Dorra says. “But the buses and trains don’t let you bring animals along. We weren’t going to leave Willey.”

    So the couple has been living in a tent near Home Depot in Seaside. And then the police showed up. Brian was accused of stealing a cell phone, although he insists he found the phone on the ground. Unlike the bankers who bankrupt America and never got charged, Brian is sitting in jail with no money for bail.

    He wasn’t always so down and out. Brian served with the Coast Guard for 20 years, according to Dorra. “Now he gets Social Security Disability for some mental issues.”

    The homeless man also made the news once when he rode across the country on a bicycle in 2007, from Seattle, WA, to his son in Connecticut, and carried a sign reading, “Peddle for Peace,” Dorra notes. “He did it in about 80 days. He left Seattle with $1 in his pocket and $99 in food stamps.”

    Dorra speaks of Brian’s recent arrest with little emotion. After a lifetime of struggle, this is just another day in her life.

    I ask her how she would like her life to turn out, if she could have whatever she wanted. After pausing a moment, she looks up from her dog and says, “I’d just like a small house, nothing spectacular. And I’d like to be able to live comfortably. I’d like to be happy.”

    Then her eyes light up and she adds, “I’d love to have a place where I could rescue animals. I’d like to have lots of animals, and rescue them, and help them.”

    Just imagine all the love she’d have then. Just imagine.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on May 4, 2012

    Topics: Homeless Chronicles

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